Tag Archives: Robert Pattinson

TIFF18: High Life

The interesting thing about High Life is the negative space – it’s all the stuff it cleverly carves out. At some point in the future, Earth is sending young, death-row convicts to outer space to “serve science” by allowing their bodies to be experimented upon. What kind of Earth is this? We never see it. What kind of crimes are we talking about? We’re never told.

Monte (Robert Pattinson) is one such prisoner. The film’s first scene shows him alone on a space craft save for a baby – his daughter? Cut to: an undisclosed time before, when he is just one of many prisoners under the scrutiny of Dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche). Ostensibly they’re gathering information on black holes, but there’s also fertility experimentation being done – and what we know and they don’t is they’re never coming back from this mission. They were never meant to.

The male prisoners masturbate alone in a ‘fuck room’ and Dr. Dibs then fertilizes the female prisoners, which makes for near-constant space miscarriages. She herself A45FC0CD-D445-49D6-8783-5FC5F4E28DBA-thumb-860xauto-72637enjoys a solitary go at the fuck room, riding a contraption reminiscent of Burn After Reading’s dildo chair. She enjoys a little solo S&M, her white skin framed by the black walls, the room feeling as dark and blank as the space outside, though rarely glimpsed, must also be.

There’s a lot of silence in space; so too in Claire Denis’s High Life. It’s disorienting and confusing and filled me with dread. In contrast to Interstellar or Gravity or The Martian, High Life has very little in the way of special effects, and actually doesn’t bother much with what’s outside the walls of their ship. If you’re a fan of Claire Denis, don’t worry, she’s as inaccessible as ever – bleak, subversive, full of fleeting, nightmarish impressions.

There’s a lot of ritual in this movie but no purity – Claire Denis puts bodies through hell. Body horror? Sort of. A horrific degradation of bodies. Of consent. Of dignity. In Monte we find a different kind of prisoner, and a stubborn will to persist. There’s a special kind of stress, and madness, to be found in the voids but always Denis refers back to what these 9 represent: humanity? What does their treatment mean for the humans back on Earth, and how does it feel to be utterly forgotten and abandoned by society?

 

 

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Good Time

It’s times like this when I must truly sit and reflect on what a movie review really is. It’s an opinion. Truly, it is only an opinion. Some people’s opinions are informed by education or experience, and other people are just very good at being opinionated. Personally, I haven’t been to film school. I’m curious and fascinated by movies, which has motivated me to look into the behind-the-scenes stuff that contributes to what makes a movie great as opposed to good. But I’m also just a nerd when it comes to story-telling in general. Before I reviewed movies, I reviewed books (for Random House). And I write. Obviously. Constantly. I have an instinctive idea of what makes a story good and compelling and worthy. But when it comes to judging whether that story’s been told effectively on the screen, well, it’s all subjective.

We started Assholes Watching Movies as a group of friends who frequently went to movies together and left the movie arguing about it. It was a passion of ours to dissect a movie and find out which pieces were working and which weren’t, and which ones stuck with us, or became part of our culture. Over the months and years it has dwindled to just Sean and I, still duking it out, still good-naturedly disagreeing with each about which movie is worth our time, and yours. Since the world doesn’t necessarily need yet another review of the movie Keanu, we try to inject our reviews with a little piece of ourselves – in this case, a diatribe against cat ownership and a shameless excuse to post pictures of our far superior dogs. Actually that’s true of at least 10% of the reviews on this site.

The great thing about being part of a blogging community is that we get to read the words of others, and do so on an extremely regular basis. So while I hadn’t yet seen Good Time, I already knew it was a good time. Reviewers that I know and respect had told me so. Was I prepared to love it? Heck yes. Did I? Oh, no, no I did not.

But I don’t want to discourage anyone from checking it out, because I think little movies like this deserve to be seen, to be given a chance. And I love films that take risks, even if for me, this one didn’t pan out. It’s about a stupid criminal named Constantine (Robert Pattinson) who botches a bank robbery and lets his brother get caught by the cops. In a period of just 24 hours, he’s in a real frenzy to set his brother free. Of course his plans derail and he’s increasingly desperate and he takes us on a pretty crazy tour of society’s gritty underbelly, which is well-shot and occasionally looks breath-takingly cool. See, even as I write this, it sounds like I loved it. Except the truth is I never engaged and was really kind of bored. Sean and I started this more than a week ago and I had to ask him to pause it because I just wasn’t happy spending my time with it. I came back to it only reluctantly, and only because I can never let things go.

So yeah, this movie is not for me, but maybe it is for you. And if you’d like to hear more, here are some of the excellent, persuasive reviews I’ve read and enjoyed on the film. Feel free to add yours in the comments!

Liam says “A chilling performance from Robert Pattinson, coupled with edgy crime-drama, and we’ve got ourselves a damn good film.”

The Film Blog writes “This is genre cinema that puts a beating heart at the centre of its twisty, metropolitan plot, before repeatedly ripping it out to jaw-dropping effect. Fantastic.”

Anna says “Good Time is a delight.”

Jade writes “Promising less than its namesake, Good Time presents an unflinching portrait of crime, propelled by misguided familial love.”

Keith calls it “a thrill ride from beginning to end.”

Joel notes a “gripping atmosphere created by the well-crafted gritty thriller script.”

812 Film Reviews calls it “white arrogance on overdrive” and this may be the review you should read above all because while I hadn’t formulated the thought myself, it resonated real hard.

 

 

SXSW: Damsel

This movie lit the Internet critics on fire when it premiered at Sundance, so it was an easy add to our crowded list here at SXSW. Brothers David Zellner and Nathan Zellner were the writers-directors behind the TIFF hit Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter a few years back so of course people were aflame to see what they’d come up with next.

In Damsel, they give us a beautiful if vaguely set Western. Sam (Robert Pattinson) has just arrived in a crummy unnamed town – the kind of town that’ll hang you for skull duggery, skull thuggery, and/or skull buggery, but they’ll yodel for you first. Bathing is rare and tooth brushing is evidently unheard of, which are unfortunate habits in a MV5BYjg2N2M2NjUtNWNjOS00MWMyLTgyOTctM2IwOTE3ZjVhMzNlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTU5Mzk0NjE@._V1_people so fond of social gang-bangs. Sam, who very  much looks the part of a gentleman, and who has arrived with “the Farrah Fawcett of miniature horses”, a lovely girl named Butterscotch, traipses through town in search of the forever-inebriated parson, whom he has engaged and will pay generously for his services. He’s here to marry his “true pure love” Penelope (Mia Wasikowska), and they’ve only got to battle the wilderness, stave off predators, rescue her from “scum-loving evil” and survive anything from an interrupted morning wank to a bent-gun fight in order to make his intended his wife.

The Zellner brothers aren’t too concerned about geographic or temporal accuracy, and nor should you be. Instead they’ve cobbled together the very best bits from every dusty corner of the genre and assembled them into a whole that is surprising and new. The score is amazing and cinematographer Adam Stone does some impressive work making Utah bend to his will. The film is more colourful and more lively than other westerns, and if ever there was a film begging us to forget what we know of the genre and start from glorious, scrubby scratch, this is it. But this is not just a film to keep you guessing, it also keeps you giggling, which it does in defiance of the genre. I wouldn’t call it absurd, exactly, but it’s a movie that’s meant to be enjoyed, and I think you’d have to be a pretty dedicated stick in the mud not to get a whole lot of enjoyment out of this one.

The Lost City of Z

Percy Fawcett is a hard-working man but promotion eludes him due to his “unfortunate choice of ancestors.” This provides the desperate motivation in him agreeing on a mapping “adventure” deep in the Amazonian jungle. If disease doesn’t kill him, the hostile “savages” are likely to, but to restore his family name and support his family, off he goes…never to return.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam) was a real British explorer who did get sent to the Amazon. While surveying there he believed he found a previously unknown, unfathomed advanced civilization. Back home he is ridiculed by his peers, but he’s obsessed, not just with a potentially huge discovery, but with proving himself. His fire is lit, his wife (Sienna Miller) supports him and his aide de camp (Robert Pattinson) enables him until one day he just disappears into the jungle.

Shooting a movie in an honest to blog jungle is difficult and uncomfortable. Director James Gray asked Francis Ford Coppola (who did the same for Apocalypse Now) for advice, and he was told “Don’t go”, which, incidentally, is the same thing Roger Corman told Coppola. Nobody listens, but it’s probably solid advice. If you do disregard it and trek to the steamiest of locations, make sure you don’t plan to film digitally. Gray was shooting 35mm thankfully, as the humidity shut down all the laptops and would have done the same to digital cameras. The actors and crew withstood and great deal of hardship – was it worth it?

The Lost City of Z (it’s pronounced Zed, you filthy Americans) has a meandering pace that reminds me of the epic adventure movies of 50 years ago or more. I can’t justify its runtime (141 minutes!) and I know exactly what I would have left on the cutting room floor, but I do love lots about the movie. I love the complexity that Hunnam brings to the role. I love the subtlety and the refusal to exploit that Gray insists upon. I love the authenticity of the script, the honest portrayal of sacrifice, the bold ambition of the story. There aren’t exactly a lot of surprises to be had. It’s about finding oneself while literally losing oneself. But there’s a lot to enjoy along the way. The jungle itself plays a stunning role; tip of the old safari hat to cinematographer Darius Khondji who captured things no CGI could hope to emulate.